SEIU's Becker Wrongly Splits Hairs on His Refusal to Recuse Himself on SEIU cases

Earlier this week, we pointed out SEIU-attorney-turned-NLRB-member Craig Becker’s seeming violation of his ethics pledge by ruling on a case involving the SEIU, in breach of the two year moratorium.

A mere five days later, in another case (ironically involving the SEIU again), Becker takes the chance to address his critics with thumb planted firmly on nose.  Becker states that the reason he is (and, presumably, will continue) ruling on cases involving the SEIU is because SEIU locals are different from the SEIU international union.

…the Moving Parties ask that I recuse myself on the grounds that local labor organizations affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are parties to the cases. Prior to the commencement of my service on the Board, I was employed by and served as counsel to the SEIU. I resigned that position and ceased all such representation effective April 4, 2010, prior to being sworn in as a Member of the Board. Pursuant to the President’s Executive Order and Title 5 of the Code, I have pledged to recuse myself from all cases to which SEIU is a party for a period of 2 years subsequent to April 5, 2010. That pledge, however, does not require me to recuse myself from all cases in which local unions affiliated with the SEIU are parties.

SEIU is a separate and distinct legal entity from the many local labor organizations affiliated with SEIU. The courts have clearly distinguished local unions as autonomous entities separate and apart from international unions with which they are affiliated. [Emphasis added.]

A splitting of the hairs?  Absolutely.

Moreover, it’s a flawed argument.  The SEIU has control over its locals in numerous ways.  For Craig Becker to argue that they are separate and distinct is like stating that a parent has no control over its child.

While it is true that the Service Employees International Union is a separate legal entity from its local unions, the international is, in fact the parent of those locals.

More importantly, the SEIU’s own union constitution (in PDF) seems to contradict Mr. Becker’s argument:

This organization shall be known as the Service Employees International Union, affiliated with Change to Win and the Canadian Labour Congress, and shall consist of an unlimited number of Local Unions chartered by it, and the membership thereof, and such affiliated bodies as may be established from time to time. [Article I, p. 3]

It appears there’s not much distinction. Then, of course, there this:

Article III


Section 1. The International Union shall be composed of and have jurisdiction over its affiliated bodies and all Local Unions composed of working men and women who are employed or engaged in any phase of private, nonprofit or public employment… [Article III, p. 4]

and this…

The International President is empowered to construe the jurisdiction above defined to embrace all classifications of workers within any establishment anywhere in the world.

Section 2(a). The International Union shall have jurisdiction over the Local Unions and their members and over all affiliated bodies.

…and this [note the term with the approval of]:…

(c). With the approval of the International Union, Local Unions may establish different categories of membership and rates of dues for persons represented and not represented by the Local Union for collective bargaining purposes including, but not limited to, life members, retired members and associate members.

…and this certainly appears that the SEIU International President can “require and direct” local unions…

(f). Consistent with the programs and policies adopted by the SEIU Convention delegates, the International President shall be empowered to negotiate and enter into national, regional, or areawide collective bargaining agreements, including companywide or multi-employer agreements, and to coordinate activities toward this end in consultation with the Local Unions involved, and is authorized to require and direct coordinated bargaining among Local Unions. [Article VIII, p. 13]

…or this…

(h). The International President shall have authority to interpret this Constitution and Bylaws and decide on all points of law submitted to him or her by Local Unions or the membership thereof, or by affiliated bodies, subject to appeal to the International Executive Board, and the next Convention. [Article VIII, p. 14]

…and this…

Section 2. Any member or officer of a Local Union aggrieved by any action of his or her Local Union or affiliated body not covered by the provisions of Article XVII of this Constitution (including determinations of election protests) may petition the International President within 15 days after the act complained of, or may petition the International Executive Board, within 15 days after the action of the International President thereon, to review the action of the Local Union or affiliated body. [Article VIII, p. 14]

…or this…

Section 4. The International President shall sign all charters and other official documents of this International Union; shall have the authority to direct an examination of the books and records of any Local Union or affiliated body;… [Article VIII, p. 14]

…and, of course, this…

Section 7(a). Whenever the International President has reason to believe that, in order to protect the interests of the membership, it is necessary to appoint a Trustee for the purpose of correcting corruption or financial malpractice, assuring the performance of collective bargaining agreements or other duties of a bargaining representative, restoring democratic procedures, or otherwise carrying out the legitimate objects of this International Union, he or she may appoint such Trustee to take charge and control of the affairs of a Local Union or of an affiliated body and such appointment shall have the effect of removing the officers of the Local Union or affiliated body. [Article VIII, p. 15]

…and the Trustees powers over a local?

(b). The Trustee shall be authorized and empowered to take full charge of the affairs of the Local Union or affiliated body and its related benefit funds, to remove any of its employees, agents and/or trustees of any funds selected by the Local Union or affiliated body and appoint such agents, employees or fund trustees during his or her trusteeship, and to take such other action as in his or her judgment is necessary for the preservation of the Local Union or affiliated body and for the protection of the interests of the membership.

Sounds like the SEIU is in charge of its locals, doesn’t it?

Section 4. No Local Union shall have any right to pay any bills before it pays its full obligation to the International Union each month. [Article XIII, p. 24]

And, of course, the SEIU international constitution “governs” its locals…

Section 3. The Constitution and Bylaws of all Local Unions and affiliated bodies and amendments thereto must be submitted to the International Union and be approved before they become valid; provided, however, that notwithstanding such approval, the Constitution and Bylaws of all Local Unions and affiliated bodies shall at all times be subordinate to the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Union as it may be amended from time to time …. Regardless of approval, if any conflict should arise between the Constitution and Bylaws of a Local Union and affiliated bodies or any amendments thereto, and the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Union as it may be amended from time to time, the provisions of the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Union shall govern. [Article XV, p. 27]

So, while Mr. Becker may try to argue that the SEIU is different from its local unions, the truth is the SEIU exercises a lot of power over its locals, making the SEIU the parent to its children.

Either way, it’s the same house!

Recuse yourself, Mr. Becker.

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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